Gina Kerr (centre), Retail Volunteer Manager at Royal Trinity Hospice with retail volunteers.

Gina Kerr's advice on creating a happy and committed team of retail volunteers at Royal Trinity Hospice

04 November 2016

I am Retail Volunteer Manager at Royal Trinity Hospice in Clapham. We provide care and service – not just for the patients but for their families too. The hospice offers a welcoming environment for all visitors - especially in our our café and gardens which have won numerous awards.

We are blessed to have a team of over 500 happy and committed volunteers. These volunteers help us to deliver care to our patients and also support us in our 25 retail stores and online boutique. I manage the volunteers at all of the shops and I am determined that anyone who volunteers for Trinity is happy and fulfilled in their roles. Here are some top tips on how to create a group of committed volunteers and provide work experience opportunities for volunteers of all ages:

Be flexible

Offering flexible volunteering opportunities has helped us to recruit students and volunteers who have busy lifestyles. We used to ask for a minimum commitment of three to six months and this put some people off. Potential volunteers who are looking for work experience to fill gaps in their CV are often unable to make long-term commitments so we removed that barrier.

We also make sure we use and develop the specific skills our volunteers already have. This allows them to flourish in their role. Also, our retention rate is so high as we make it quick and easy to apply for a role before they're invited for a short interview.

Create a trusting and respectful environment

The Trinity family of volunteers is a warm and friendly environment. It's a great way for volunteers to build their confidence as they develop their skills whilst working in fun teams whilst meeting new people. It's a great way for them to find out what motivates them and helps set them up on their future journey in the paid job market.

Learning skills and getting work experience

Our volunteers get involved in the same activities as our staff so there's a great sense of teamwork and plenty for them to do. In the shops, they greet our customers, receive donations, process sales, write product descriptions for our online boutique and visually merchandise the store.

Without our volunteers, our new online boutique would not be so successful. The volunteers modelled the clothes, uploaded content, prepared clothes for delivery and organised the warehouse. Our e-commerce team was so thankful that they put on a big thank you party for volunteers that helped with the website's launch!

Ask for the help from corporate (employee) volunteers

You might be surprised to know that we offer roles for corporate volunteers in our shops and hospice. This year, over 1100 hours have been given by corporate supporters and we can cater for groups of between 8-10 volunteers at any one time.

In one day groups of volunteers can make a huge contribution, not only in terms of activities in the store but many groups have offered us advice with our marketing, customer service, finances, search engine optimisation and retail strategy. We'd not be where we are today without this expert advice.

The nine volunteers from AOL UK had a fantastic day volunteering with the Royal Trinity Hospice. Our host was brilliant and made us feel very welcomed. We all have a better understanding and strong appreciation of the Royal Trinity Hospice shops. Additionally, this corporate volunteering day allowed us to bond with our co-workers and meet new colleagues from across the business. Derek, AOL

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